The Latest: Updates on causes and controversies

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FBI widens witch-hunt

Following the September raids on anti-war and solidarity activists, many of them socialists and labor organizers, awareness and anger are now building as the FBI and Obama administration broaden their dragnet. To date, the FBI has subpoenaed 23 people in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan to appear before grand juries. So far, all have courageously refused to testify, risking jail time. Compounding the outrage is the recent exposure of illegal FBI infiltration of and spying on the Anti-War Committee based in Minneapolis-St. Paul and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

Dozens of protest actions are planned across the country for Jan. 25, when nine Palestinian rights activists are ordered to appear before a grand jury in Chicago.

The FBI claims any friendly contact with a group on the Justice Department’s unfounded “terrorist” list is itself an act of terrorism. Those subpoenaed have nothing to do with terrorism but are targets in the government’s ongoing drive to criminalize dissent.

The group Students for Justice in Palestine writes, “We live in an age in which silence is suicidal — we shall, therefore, make as much noise as we can.” Help defense of the Bill of Rights grow by visiting www.stopfbi.net.

— by Adrienne Weller

Puerto Rican students determined to win

Last spring, University of Puerto Rico (UPR) students won a two-month strike against fee hikes, budget cuts and privatization. They struck again on Dec. 14 against an $800 tuition increase that will force thousands out of school. University officials tried to stop it by calling in riot police and snipers to occupy UPR’s eleven campuses. They also declared free speech off limits on campus. The result? Attacks by cops and student arrests. Demonstrators have been forced off campus and face tear gas and police beatings. And the Puerto Rican Supreme Court banned student strikes.

But the students defy these police-state tactics with class boycotts, roadblocks and massive protests in malls and commercial areas. Most campus workers and faculty have joined the strike and honor picket lines. Students are mobilizing surprise rallies in nearby barrios armed with music, information and the simple message “Our struggle is your struggle!”

On Jan. 11, 1,000 students protested outside the Rio Piedras campus and marched through the school, stopping classes and work. The next day 10 students were arrested for passing out literature in classes. On Jan. 13, six students, including this writer, were arrested for protesting. The judge released us, throwing out charges such as “obstruction of justice” and “aggression with a water bottle.” The same day students marched through campus confronting riot police.

This has been the second strike in less than a year to defend public education for the working class. It is still going strong, but the administration refuses to negotiate. Unions and religious groups mount support picket lines. Internationally, students and political organizations have issued solidarity statements.

Readers can send letters of support to gamelyn.oduardo@gmail.com. Mail protest letters to UPR Central Administration, Jardin Botanica Sur, 1187 Calle Flamboyan, San Juan, PR 00936-1117. For the latest news and videos visit www.upresunpais.com.

— Gamelyn Oduardo, Law School Students Action Committee

Pittsburgh and New York: “No fracking way!”

The natural gas industry, with its huge amounts of cash, slick PR campaigns, and supporters at the highest level of government, might not have expected the groundswell of opposition it is meeting.

In mid-November last year, the Pittsburgh City Council voted unanimously to ban natural gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This is a victory for all the ordinary people who have spoken out about the harm that fracking can and does cause to the water supply and to human and environmental health.

The next month, New York’s governor signed a temporary ban on fracking specifically.

Pennsylvania Homeland Security is now spying on community meetings about drilling and even screenings of the documentary Gasland — and sharing names of attendees with police agencies and gas companies.

Don’t be intimidated! If you haven’t already seen it, put Gasland at the top of your viewing list. Let’s send the fossil fuel profiteers packing in 2011, and demand a sane and massive shift in the direction of renewable energy now!

— by Dave Schmauch

Also see these articles:

The global student revolt

Entrapped: FBI targets youth of color

What the frack? Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas endangers water, atmosphere, and lives

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